Friday, December 21, 2012

So it Begins

A guest post by Mary Wilson

I feel a little foolish writing parenting posts. There is no shortage of parenting advice online. One of the biggest genres of blog is the mommy blog. This is our village, and we're raising children in the only community we know.

In that vein, all parenting advice is bullshit and never applies to all kids or all parents. I have bought and read 5 parenting books and regularly read parenting blogs in the almost 5 years since I became pregnant with my first child and though I have learned useful bits from each of them, none had "all" the answers. No one had all the answers, and anyone who claims otherwise knows fuck all about parenting.

So, here I am, ignoring my own misgivings and writing about parenting. Please, take anything and everything I say about parenting, motherhood, and childcare with a substantial grain of salt. I have no experience with early childhood education, child psychology, or any other academic study of the development of children. I speak from my own experiences as a young, white, middle class, able-bodied, cisgender mother of two equally able-bodied white children. I will do my best to check my privilege at every opportunity and please point it out when my privilege is showing. There are experiences that every parent shares and I want to provide my take. Writing about parenting is more to help me put my experience into perspective than it is for me to tell you how you will experience parenting.

So, on to the parenting. I’ll start at the beginning because I have a well practiced rant about pregnancy and a woman’s body. This does not necessarily go under “parenting” because experiencing pregnancy does not automatically make you a parent, and being a parent does not mean you experienced pregnancy. It’s just a convenient starting point.

I loved being pregnant. I loved feeling the little being inside me moving and growing. I didn't love the aches, the pain, the heartburn. I knew going into both pregnancies that there is a physical toll to be paid for undergoing that much physical change in such a short time. That said, there wasn't much that I truly hated about being pregnant.

I only really hated one thing.

I hated being treated like an incubator. I hated that not only did I have to share my body with this potential person, the obvious physical signs of pregnancy meant that I was sharing my body with the world. Intellectually I knew I would be giving up some autonomy to the potential person sharing my body but I was not emotionally prepared to have that autonomy taken by my family or anyone else for that matter.

Being pregnant and the resulting barrage of “you can’t/shouldn’t do that!” reminded me that few people trust women to make their own decisions about their bodies. Pregnant women are constantly told “Don’t” by people totally uninvested in their health or well-being. While pregnant the only opinions that matter are the same opinions a pregnant woman would take into account while not pregnant. Health decisions (including diet and physical capabilities) should be made between a woman and her doctor or midwife, and even the doctor or midwife should be challenged if she or he recommends something that the pregnant woman doesn’t think will help.

Pregnancy is a confusing time with so many physical and emotional changes it really helps to trust your instincts, trust how you feel and listen to your body. If a woman doesn’t know how she feels or what her body is saying to, that’s ok. Everyone is allowed to feel shitty, elated, or confused, especially when being blasted with puberty-level hormones.

If you are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant there are many things you need to consider but the second most important thing (after “am I ready/do I want to be a mother”) is “Am I ready to share my body even more than I already do?”


Mary Wilson is a mom, wife, geek, and crafter, but not necessarily in that order. She is raising two preschool aged girls in small-town Nova Scotia with the help of a husband and a greyhound. She has an undergrad degree in philosophy and women's studies and currently works for an e-commerce site making how-to videos for YouTube. She has no idea how any of the above happened but has decided to roll with it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

His Right to Choose

A guest post by Jessica Prominski

“Abortion”—the context and meaning of this word has been in the media, legislation, and public discourse. Nations and states have discussed, decided on, and revised abortion legislation for decades. And yet, the discussion never seems to end.

First, I am a self-identified heterosexual woman and I identify as feminist. I am pro-choice. This has an impact on the way I view pro/anti-choice legislation and abortion. However, while my feminism is about choice, it’s also about inclusion and addressing limitations of supporting rigid gender roles and gender expression.

I was reminded of the consequences of supporting and teaching rigid gender roles when I was talking to a previous sexual partner about abortion. We were not having sex (defined here as penetrative intercourse) but I am fascinated with people’s responses to abortion and discussions around choice. My partner previously identified to me that he is pro-choice. When I asked him what he would think or do if I got pregnant, I was surprised at his answer. My previous partners indicated they would not only support but would actually prefer me getting an abortion should pregnancy become a reality for us.  However, he indicated that he sees pregnancy and parenthood as a crucial responsibility and does not agree with using abortion as a form of birth control. He said he would do everything he could to encourage me to complete the pregnancy and deliver the baby. When I asked how we could ever afford to take care of a baby, and co-parent a child (we have not been together very long) he said I didn’t have to be involved in the child’s life if I didn’t want to but he would be responsible for his mistake and take care of the child to the best of his abilities.

I suggested the idea of adoption as a solution to my hypothetical pregnancy. He said he would not be okay with adoption and would be responsible for the child he created, even if it’s not the ideal time in his life for parenthood.

I told him that while I would talk to him about it and consider his perspective, the choice to complete or terminate a pregnancy was mine, because the child would be inside of my body. I told him that there is no way I could complete a pregnancy and deliver a child and then say “see ya never” and leave him to parent alone so that’s why I would prefer abortion at this time in my life. He said if I got an abortion, he would never speak to me again. I was shocked … I’ve never had this response before and didn’t know what to say.

For a few weeks, I thought about this conversation and wasn’t sure what I’d do if we did have sex and I got pregnant (maybe this is still why we haven’t had sex). But all of this thinking brought me to thinking about the rigidity of gender roles. I have been noticing limitations for gender expression and roles for women but have not considered how rigid and difficult expectations of gender expression are for men. But men feel pressure too—to be a gentlemanly but unemotional, aggressive, logical, responsible provider and sexual being.

Masculinity is defined extremely rigidly in much of the global community. I believe young men have been taught that they are decision-makers that have power and should make all decisions, even if it is outside of their rights or they do not have the knowledge to do so.  We hear so much in the media about men who are dead-beat dads and men who don’t pay child support, and how bad and devastating single-mother-led-families can be on children. This becomes ingrained in our thoughts and behaviours. And this is where I think my partner was during our discussion about abortion. Most men are simultaneously taught that they are biologically determined to be sexual and unemotional, safe sex isn’t important, and that they should avoid being dead-beat dads, which is completely illogical given how each of these demands overlap. They are supposed to want sex often, whether it is inside of a committed relationship or not, that they should be hard-working, unemotional, dominant in relationships, and that they should at the same time, be responsible fathers if pregnancy becomes a reality. Men receive mixed, confusing, contradictory messages about masculinity similar to those that women receive about femininity, and neither can seem to win.

If men support abortion, they will be perceived as supporting murder and ignoring their “responsibilities.” If they support adoption, they are taking the easy way out and will be called pussies and powerless. If they support a pregnancy and are a responsible father, they are expected to be: (1) a good provider and hard-worker, yet also spend enough time with children to make sure they don’t have the “devastating” impacts of a single-parent-led-family, (2) unemotional but supportive, and (3) dominant leader of the household without controlling every single decision of their children. Expectations for men and definitions of masculinity, especially in terms of parenting and having children, are impossible to fulfill which is why perhaps so many men identify as pro-choice but then if a pregnancy became a reality in their relationships, they struggle to find a solution supported by society and other men and a situation in which they feel comfortable supporting while still feeling “masculine enough.”

Some of the hesitation around having sex might have been because we were not together long or perhaps because we weren’t “officially together”, just seeing each other. However, some of it might rely on the fact that we would had some conflict in approaching an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, if we did have sex and I did happen to get pregnant, given his response, I don’t know if I would even tell my partner about my decision to have an abortion.

And I know that’s not necessarily fair and not a situation I would like to be involved in, so I’m struggling a little bit. It might just be the way things have gone, but our decision not to have sex is mutual, and I think our conflict about abortion is a contributing factor. Which is hard. We have an intense physical chemistry and I would like to have those intimate moments together. Maybe this is something that will change over time or as we grow more comfortable with each other we would be able to have a different discussion. 

Ultimately, this partner and I stopped seeing each other but remain close. 

Jessica Prominski is currently a Master of Arts student in Equity Studies and plans to begin her Masters in Social Work in the next two years. She is a case manager at a women's shelter in Hamilton and does diversity education for Hamilton Health Sciences. Jessica is also a Board of Directors member for a shelter in Mississauga, Media Coordinator for Slutwalk Hamilton and is doing policy work on violence against women through Rainbow Health Ontario.


Cross-posted at The Good Men Project